Democrats Still Struggling With Whole 'Party Unity' Thing

Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean and Harry Reid have a point to make. About John McCain.
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean and Harry Reid have a point to make. About John McCain. (By Alex Wong -- Getty Images)
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It was billed as a post-primary unity event at Democratic National Committee headquarters yesterday. But the unity fell apart before the opening "thank you all for coming."

As 18 elected Democrats filed into the party's conference room for the show of force, DNC Chairman Howard Dean, evidently not realizing the microphone was picking up his words, took a swipe at Sen. Chuck Schumer, the loquacious leader of the Senate Democrats' campaign effort.

"Wait until Schumer stops talking," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested to Dean.

"That'll be a long wait," Dean replied. Then began the meeting.

It seems that nothing can stop the Democrats from taking the White House and expanding their congressional majorities in November. But give them time. They're Democrats, after all.

The famously fractious party is trying to apply wallpaper to the foundational cracks left by the Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton saga. But if yesterday's unity kickoff is any indication, the party is less interested in rallying around its own nominee than in rallying against John McCain.

"We have as a Republican nominee a flawed candidate," Reid proclaimed. "His temperament is wrong, he's wrong on the war, he's wrong on the economy."

"Today we stand united as a Democratic Party focused on putting an end to the idea of a third Bush term, which we would get with John McCain," said Dean.

"In Iraq we have a war without end," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added, "and John McCain says '100 more years.' "

In their opening remarks, Dean, Pelosi and Reid mentioned the Republican Party's candidate by name 17 times, more than they did their own party's likely nominee.

But perhaps this should not be surprising. Walk toward the entrance to the DNC headquarters from South Capitol Street and the first thing you see is a McCain campaign poster (closer inspection reveals that it says "Lobbyists for McCain"). Hanging over the entrance is a banner mentioning not Obama but his opponent: "John McCain = 3rd Bush Term."

The negative strategy may have something to do with the need to win over the 18 million people who voted for Clinton. They may not have fallen for Obama's charms during the primary -- but perhaps they can be convinced that McCain is the greater evil.

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